What Happened When I Decluttered My Room (Life)

For months, I had a messy room. I thought everything was just okay until I found myself sleeping in the couch for a week or two because there were so many things on my bed. There were papers, unused clothing, books, bags…etc. Everything was a mess! Little did I know that the mess “outside” was actually taking toll on my everyday activities…and my “inner life.”

It was probably a month ago when I noticed that I would usually wake up very tired despite sleeping earlier than usual. Whenever I combed my hair, I would find more hair stuck in the wide-toothed comb. It didn’t probably seem like it but I was stressed!

And then right after one morning mass, when I found myself with more quiet time for meditation, it dawned on me why I was feeling more worried, pressured and tired: my room needed cleaning.

Moreover, I stumbled upon this video which made me really motivated to begin decluttering:

It took a day to actually get my room from messy to organized. I cleared out my bed, fixed my desk, cleared my closet for clothes I no longer use. As I sorted things into “what I need to keep,” “what I need to donate,” and “trash,” I realized that deep within, I was also going through a process of assessing what are the essentials and what I can let go of. There were keychains, conference ids, t-shirts, letters and other stuff that were very memorable but I knew I could no longer keep. I was trying to hold on to some World Youth Day-Madrid items when I realized that I really do not need to preserve the memory of it through them; the lessons of WYD Madrid had already been learned well enough to stay in my heart forever.

I proceeded to declutter my closet and saw that nearly half of it was taking unnecessary space already. It was either that I had not touched a certain top for a year or I never even used it at all! There were also pieces that I am so sure I could no longer use because I am now trying to be mindful with what I wear. Also, that video on minimalism gave me a eureka moment: deciding what to wear in the morning takes so much of my time! So I kept everything basic and left only the clothes that I knew I would regularly use. Not only did it give me more space, it allowed me to see that I no longer need to buy more clothes. What I had was enough for me to use and be presentable in class and in other engagements.

I also let go of bags, shoes and other accessories. I completely donated all the bracelets, earrings, necklaces I no longer touched because I was content with my gold necklace with two pendants and two watches I use (one digital one for everyday use and one for more formal occasions).

Even my books needed to be organized since most of the essential books I had were already in my Kindle. I kept majority of it, though, and placed it in our “library” in the room outside our house. I lined up for display in my desk only those that I normally use when I teach and preach. The rest that I still kept close because I wanted to reread them someday, I stored in one of the cabinets cleared because of my newfound take on what I wear.

As for make-up and other beauty items, I had to give the excess away. There was no use of “storing it for later” because I also kept those things to a minimum. There was that eye cream that I always forget to use, that lipstick that I can use but too reddish or too dark. There were tubs of lotion that mom hoarded later on, along with some clothes I let go. And there were skincare items that I think I could simply not use anymore.

Bottomline, when you see my room now, everything is reduced to the basics.

What did I learn from the entire experience and the days that followed after that?

  1. It is nice to stick to only what you need. It makes choosing what to use easier and it makes life simpler. When I reduced my clothing to only a significant number of tops, jeans and dresses, I realized that it does not matter if you wear the same thing over and over. I doesn’t matter, too, if it is out of fashion or in fashion. For as long as I dress modestly and nicely, that is enough. Would what other people say, matter? Nope. What matters is what you do with your life. It is not what you wear that will attract people or define who you are; it is your heart.
  2. With a few items in my room now, I could find things easily. I could also move around better even if my room is really small.
  3. I can sleep on my bed now and I found out that I wake up better. The back pains due to my upper and lower back conditions are now manageable.
  4. I stay in my room longer now and I feel peaceful about it. I think better, pray better, and work better, too.
  5. Decluttering my room allowed me to see the state of my heart, too. It was a concrete step in detachment. Detaching from the memorabilia allowed me to also detach from people and things and see the beauty of keeping close only a few. For people, not that I am pushing everyone away and being uncharitable but I saw how it was okay to keep much of what happens in my life to myself and to a select few. My former spiritual director was right in saying that the interior life should be between me and God, him and the one who forms me. I can still share but I am in no way obliged to share everything to everyone. It was liberating!
  6. A clean room made prayer more conducive. I have more quiet moments now and I need not stay in the living room often and drown myself in social media. I have more time now for spiritual reading and lesser time for Facebook. (Social media, I realized, can be so tiring!)
  7. Keeping things organized and clean allows me to view life with fresh eyes. When I wake up in the morning, I no longer wake up “in a mess.” It is now easier to stand up, get my breviary and do the lauds before I head to morning Mass.

Basically, one’s room really reflects one’s inner room. A clean and simple room free from “mess,” “attachments” and other “unnecessary things,” benefits one’s spiritual life. One good advise I also got from a priest was to make one’s room so simple that when we die, there is not much in it to give away and discard. It reflects a life lived in poverty-a life lived for God alone.

Because really, we do not need much; we simply need God.

(image source: https://www.c2educate.com)


The Failure to Listen

I had a very brief but enlightening conversation yesterday with a Salesian priest who is actively working in youth ministry. We were conversing about our different experiences with the young today and he shared that the thrust of the Salesians in the North province for months now was to listen to the different voices of young people. Different, meaning, that not only those who they were actively serving in their institutions but even to those who seem far off. As I bid my goodbye to father, I pondered on that for a while. Ah yes, often times the problems that we have on hand in ministry are often left unsolved or allowed to “simmer” for long because of one thing: the failure to listen.

Way back, I had another conversation with a leader of a religious community who was asking counsel on what to do with certain problems he/she was facing. I remember asking this person: “So what are your members telling you about it?” He/she paused for a moment, reasoned out and continued to ventilate. I asked for the second time: “What are your members’ sentiments?” And he/she began stating them, each with “buts.” That conversation ended with me partially giving up. Here was a person who did not like to listen.

When I was still a nurse, I learned that before we can dish out nursing diagnoses to our patients, (yes, we have nursing diagnoses!) the first step is always assessment. For physical assessment, we would use a lot of medical-related techniques; for the psychological ones, a more in-depth assessment is needed and verification of what we observe will always occur when we finally engage the patient in a conversation. We will never get to the information that we need if we would do all the talking. And we will never get the patient’s problems solved when all we do is speculate and conclude things from our own point of view. That is why part of our training as nurses is to master the different communication techniques. A huge part of these methods is actually listening. 

What hinders us from truly listening? Is it the fear of finding out what is wrong? Is it our biases – both to the situation and even to the person talking? Is it our pride being wounded by what me may hear from the majority? Is it our being too stubborn to welcome changes because we cling to what we deem as “tried and tested” methods? Is it because we do not seem to “have the time to waste in sitting down with the other’?

Whatever is that that may hinder us from listening, I guess it will boil down to just one thing: we fail to be humble enough to sit down and find out the root cause of what may no longer be working or what the problem really is. It takes so much from us to let our guards down and be completely open to all possibilities. It wounds the ego. And if we are leaders, all the more we find it difficult.

If we fail to listen, we will also fail in giving the right solutions to the problems we are facing. If a doctor fails to listen, he might be giving the patient the wrong drug which could be very, very dangerous. In ministry, if we fail to listen, we might endanger more souls than helping them. If we fail to listen then we fail to be more like Jesus.

One of the best accounts in the Bible on listening and accompaniment is that of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman by the well. (Click here to read the Gospel) Here, Jesus would show us a “step by step method” on listening – both the attitude of the listener, the right posture in asking questions, the right questions to ask…etc. The result of that conversation was phenomenal: the Samaritan woman experiences a change of heart and suddenly becomes a “surprising evangelizer.”

‘Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” 40 When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 Many more began to believe in him because of his word, 42 and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”’

John 4:39-42

As I write this, the image of that kind Salesian priest comes to mind. The thought of him being humble to listen to the silent cries of the young warms the heart in this very cold and rainy weather. I pray that all of the pastors – not only the priests and religious but also lay servant-leaders – would have the same attitude.

This reflection actually came about after listening to Cardinal Tagle close the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization. He gave a synthesis of almost a week-long dialogue with different sectors. Since the speech was given less than two hours ago, I don’t think the written message is already available online. But here are two words that came to mind as I listened to the Cardinal: humility and compassion.

Just like I mentioned above, we can never get to the bottom of what we seek if we are not humble to acknowledge that we are helpless without the Lord. If the answers to the problems we have are ministry-related, all the more that we should cling fast to God. The Cardinal was right in saying that we are mere servants. We are sent by Someone greater than us. The work of evangelization is never ours; it is the Lord’s. It was God who provided the bread that fed the multitude who were hungry and sought out Jesus; the disciples were just the ones who distributed the grace. We often know this and we are constantly reminded of it but when our ego is already wounded, we usually forget.

In addition to being helpless, the Cardinal says that the moments of nothingness that occurs to us should not remain on a personal level, it should extend to us finding the helplessness of those around us so that we can create bridges that Jesus can walk from our lives to another’s.

Also on humility, Cardinal Tagle mentions that we should be vulnerable to those whom we serve. If we are too closed in and we fail to be genuine, our ministry is just like any NGO (non-government organization). Our service in the Church is more than that. It is a sharing of one’s life for another, to another. And if we put up walls and boundaries often coming from our self-righteousness, then we will fail to let Jesus truly shine.

Finally, compassion. When Jesus asked the Samaritan woman to give him a drink, Jesus already saw that she needed saving; she needed the Lord. Compassion when we look at its etymology would lead us to this meaning: “to suffer with.”

“At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Matthew 9:36

The entire life of Jesus was moved by compassion. This is what made Jesus stop to listen to Zacchaeus without judgment. This is what made Jesus stop for a while to attend to the hemorraghing woman in his haste to see the daughter of Jairus. Even in the account of His passion, Jesus would stop, in His compassion, to converse with the daughters of Jerusalem and the two thieves. When, just like Jesus, we are moved by compassion in our ministry, we find ourselves willing to be interrupted to stop and truly listen to the needs of others around us. And this listening is not only “listening to words spoken” but a listening that looks beyond spoken words, straight into the heart of the other.

Are we truly a listening Church? Is our ministry a listening ministry?

There will always be reasons not to listen. There will always be excuses not to do so. But if we want change in our world, in our society, in our Church, in our organizations and in our families, we need to have a truly listening heart like Christ.

A listening heart willing to forego the ego.

A listening heart that does not think of the self but the other.

A listening heart that is humble and compassionate.

When was the last time we truly and genuinely listened?


“Little Wounded You, Arise!”

Deeper still, in each wounded child, is the child God destined for life eternal. He/she is hidden within us and when we allow Jesus to heal us, this little child will one day run free from the wounds that stop him/her from gaining wings to fly.

Four years ago, while I was still part of Poveda, I was sent by the school to attend a training called, “Healing the Eight Stages of Life.” For four days, I learned a lot of things about myself and about how we can approach people who may not be aware of the “wounded child within.” In a way, it was an affirmation and a breakthrough for me. An affirmation that the path to a deeper relationship with God needs an integration of our lights and shadows and a breakthrough because I realized that healing the inner child does not happen in one go. Healing may be something we all have to face for as long as we are alive.

A while ago, as I sat in Mass and listened to the proclamation of the Gospel, the words that struck me were the ones Jesus enunciated to bring back to life the dead daughter of Jairus:

He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,”
which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.

The lines brought me to tears and as I looked at the back of the church, I saw the light of the confessional lit in red and yellow.

There will be times when certain events of our lives may trigger to bring out that little wounded child within us. You see, as one grows up, traumatic and very painful experiences wound us to a great extent. Often times, these wounds are hidden only to manifest themselves later when similar instances happen to us. We ought to be aware since these wounds can potentially break us apart and even wound others as well.

In the spiritual sense, these pyschological wounding can lead us to our tendencies to sin. This is why the challenge to a holy and moral life is that of self-mastery. Through God’s grace, we become aware of these wounds we have and we bring it constantly to the healing light of Christ. When the child “comes out” and does a “tantrum,” we need to know how to tame the little child.

Back in 2012, the major breakthrough for me was undergoing counselling sessions with a really good psychologist who specializes in psychospiritual healing. He led me to see the dark parts of me and from what incidences in my childhood trigger the letting loose of the wounded child within me. Right after that very painful but necessary process of unmasking, I was led to my first ever Spiritual Director who navigated me into a deeper life of faith. (It is his birthday today!)

As I entered the confessional a while ago and silently prayed to the Holy Spirit for whatever was that I felt needed healing, sudden flashes of images came to mind. I realized that for some days now, I was not completely aware… the little Lee-an was out on the loose.

“Talitha koum.”

“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.”

And just like that, the Father took His child by the hand, wiped her tears and let her walk freely again.

Today’s Gospel is an invitation to healing. Often times, we may not be aware of our need to be healed but what will drive us to ask of it from the Lord is faith. It was faith that made the hemorrhaging woman seek Jesus out and touch His cloak. It was also faith that led Jairus to find Jesus and beg Him to cure his daughter. We will never grow deeper into the spiritual life if we will not open our hearts to an encounter with Christ. Yes, it may be painful and very uncomfortable to dig deeper and see the parts of us we are afraid to expose and face but to grow in holiness and whole-ness, there is no other way. If we truly want to follow Jesus and live holy lives, we need Jesus to touch us, hold us by the hand, heal us, make us rise from our slumber and walk again.

“Do not be afraid. Just have faith.” Jesus’ words to Jairus are also His words to all of us who may not be aware of the little wounded child within. Jesus came to give us life and restore us to a newness that will bring us much joy. Fear of pain, fear of facing our wounds and shadows will be the hindrance for us to finally having the peace and joy that accompanied the saints who have given their all to the Lord. To surrender should not be partial; we surrender everything – lights and shadows alike. This surrendering and healing can only be a product of grace. This grace we can receive when we frequent two sacraments that bring healing: reconciliation (confession) and the Eucharist.

“Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep.”

Deeper still, in each wounded child, is the child God destined for life eternal. He/she is hidden within us and when we allow Jesus to heal us, this little child will one day run free from the wounds that stop him/her from gaining wings to fly.

Set yourself free. Rise. And as you get to know yourself and love your scars, see how this rising can set the world on fire.